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Is It All About Salary?

Now that you have made it through the interview process, it’s time for the next fear-inducing step in the job seeking process: the offer. Negotiation is a stressful situation for most people, especially when there are questions as to whether the rules have changed. For many years, it was “all about the number,” as in, the salary. However, is that still the case? Is it all just about the salary, or have other parts of the compensation package taken on new importance?

The quick answer is yes, the balance has changed. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) recently reported that salaries for new college grads are down for the second year in a row, a trend which has many root causes.

Surprisingly, not all of them are bad.

Although the over-arching situation of the economic crisis is to blame for some lower salaries, many people have found that they are willing (glad, even) to exchange some dollars for a position in which they have some flexibility in scheduling. Perks such as the ability to telecommute or work a non-traditional schedule are worth something to today’s employees.

And then there’s the Generation Y angle. Twenty-something workers take a different approach to their work, and as more of them have entered the workforce each year, it has had an impact on compensation and benefits. Lifestyle benefits matter to this group—things such as a great physical work space, and little perks that make for a nice work environment. Popular Gen Y author and speaker Penelope Trunk has often been quick to point out on her “Brazen Careerist” blog that these are people who are all too willing to move in with their parents, if they’re not already living there. They will turn down a job offer if they don’t sense that they’ll enjoy working there. It’s no accident that Google has pool tables and foosball in their work place.

How, then, do you negotiate the number that works for you? In a recent New York Daily News column, I discussed the difference between benefits and perks—and I offer some suggestions as to which ones are worth negotiating in place of salary. Many are not- and it’s important to remember that. Know your worth, and be prepared to leave the free coffee and bagels on the negotiating (or the foosball) table on the way out, if they are offered up as a replacement for dollars and cents.

By Carolyn Kepcher for Work Her Way